Ann Shulgin

Laura Ann Gotlieb was born on March 22, 1931 in Wellington, New Zealand, the child of Bernard Gotlieb–American Consul in Wellington–and his wife, Gwen Ormiston, New Zealander. Her brother, Ted, was born two years later. Shortly after Ted’s birth, the Gotlieb family was transferred to Sicily for two years, then Mr. Gotlieb was sent to the consulate in Trieste, Italy, where they stayed for over six years.

In Spring of 1940, the Gotliebs were directed by the U.S. State Department to return to the United States. Ann’s mother Gwen, along with 9-year-old Ann and 7-year-old Ted, was joined by the wife of the Vice-Consul on board the last ship to leave an Italian port before Italy formally entered World War II. Their husbands stayed on the dock, waving goodbye to their loved ones. They had been asked by the U.S. government to smuggle certain documents into Spain and Portugal. Bernard Gotlieb had accepted the mission without complaint, although he knew that, being Jewish, he would face more than the usual hostility if caught by enemy authorities.

After Ann’s father returned safely from Europe, he was assigned to Nuevo Laredo, a town on the Rio Grande, opposite the American city of Laredo, Texas. Next, Bernard Gotlieb was transferred to Santiago-de-Cuba, the second largest city in the island of Cuba. One year and a few months later, Ann’s father was sent to Havana to work in the American embassy and then they were transferred yet again, to Windsor, Canada, across the US border from Detroit, The family lived there for four years, during which time Ann attended Alma College, a private girls’ high school in Canada, for two years, and High Mowing School in New Hampshire for the final two years of high school.

After Windsor, Bernard Gotlieb retired and the family moved to San Francisco, California. In San Francisco, Ann went to an art academy and studied commercial art. She had drawn and painted all her life, and thoroughly enjoyed this training. She met and married a fellow artist, and the couple moved to Los Angeles until Ann became pregnant, when they moved back to the Bay Area to live with Ann’s father, who had suffered a heart attack. By the time the baby–a boy named Christopher–was born, the marriage was at its end. Ann found a place in a housing project for herself and the baby, and settled into a new learning experience: how to be a poor single mother.

Ann found a job as a medical transcriber in a large hospital complex in San Francisco. The father of her child told her that he was going to marry a university graduate who would be able to stay home and take care of little Christopher, and he urged her to give her son a better life than the boy could experience in the housing projects. Ann eventually agreed and gave her boy into the care of an apparently warm and affectionate step-mother, who said that Ann could visit him every week in his new home. This arrangement was soon changed by Christopher’s new parents, for reasons that appeared reasonable, but which eventually ended up depriving the child of enough of his mother’s presence and emotional support just when his stepmother was bearing her own children and beginning to turn Christopher into the family scapegoat. Despite this traumatic childhood, the little boy grew into a successful adult, an exceptionally good teacher, and a member of Mensa. He did, however, suffer from bi-polar depression. His stepmother, on her deathbed, apologized to Christopher for having treated him badly.

Shortly after having given her little boy into the care of his father and new wife, Ann moved into an apartment below the University of California Hospital. Her first love from high school, a man named Vadim, came back into her life, and they married. Ann paid Vadim’s way through medical school, after which he discovered richer territory in a Los Angeles heiress, and said to his wife something like this: “If you really love me, you will release me so that I might marry this wealthy lady who can make life much easier for me.” Ann divorced him and paid all his accumulated bills, while experiencing mild to moderate depression and no insight whatsoever. Ann met her third husband, John Weir Perry, a Jungian psychiatrist, at the hospital and they were married after she became pregnant. They lived in Marin County, across the Golden Gate Bridge from the city of San Francisco, and during the following eight years, they had two more children, for a total of three–two girls and a boy–all of them beautiful, highly intelligent, and possessed of fierce integrity, along with a natural empathy and compassion. Ann eventually divorced John Perry and she and the children lived across the street from him. Ann went back to work as a medical transcriber.

In the Fall of 1978, Ann met a man, Sasha Shulgin, who was true and loving–a chemistry genius whose life’s work was the invention and exploration of psychedelic drugs. They were married on July 4th, 1981, at a surprise ceremony in the middle of a holiday picnic in their back yard. The man who officiated their ceremony–a man who loved them both and whom they loved dearly–was an official of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Over the following years, Ann and Sasha helped develop MDMA as a psychotherapeutic agent and also went on to discover and explore many other psychedelic compounds. They co-authored two books, PIHKAL and TIHKAL, both of which continue to be discovered by new readers. Their children and grandchildren filled them with pride, their friends gave them love and loyalty, and they were grateful beyond measure for all of this. Since Sasha’s passing in 2014, Ann has continued to provide inspiration and guidance to artists, visionaries, and scientists around the world.

Ann is presently writing Book Three, which will presumably tell everything else that needs telling.